Connecticut Legislative Updates
The largest effort related to adoption currently occurring in Connecticut is being supported by Access Connecticut. Please look at their website for the most current information. CCA supports their organization and their efforts wholeheartedly.
You can see some of the effort and related legislative gains related to Original Birth Certificates made below.
Please click here to download a PDF of the 2017 adoption-related Legislative Update for the State of Connecticut.
The bill to open access to original birth certificates to adult adoptees was passed in 2014 and became effective 7/1/15. A ceremony was held 8/19/15. This affects adoptees who were adopted after 10/1/83 and over age 18. The Access CT group is planning to pursue access prior to 1983, to restore the right that had been in place up to 1975.
Talking Points In Support of Adoptee Access to Original Birth Certificate Legislation
1. This bill is about restoring the “human right” for all adult adoptees 21 years of age or older, born in Connecticut to obtain a non-certified copy their Original Birth Certificates (OBC) from the Vital Records Office (VRO) just like every other citizen of Connecticut. This right that was retroactively taken away by the legislature in 1974.
2. This bill is about “human rights” it is not about searching. “access to original birth certificates is a human rights issue, reunion registries are for people who want to be reunited”
3. This proposed legislation respects the rights of adult adoptees born in Connecticut to obtain their original birth certificates as well as the rights of birth parents to express their desire for contact from their biological children.
Adoptees 21 years old or older can request a non-certified copy of their original birth certificate by filling out a form and sending it to the VRO
The new law will allow a birth parent to fill out a Contact Preference Form to express their desire for contact with their biological child in one of the three following ways:
I would like to be contacted
I would like to be contacted but through an intermediary of my choosing, i.e. the placing agency, personal friend, etc.
I do not want to be contacted.
If a birth parent chooses not to be contacted, they may fill out a Birth Parent Updated Medical History form. These forms will be placed in the adoptee’s file at Vital Records Office and will be given to an adoptee when he/she requests a copy of the original birth certificate. Adoptees and birth parents will be able to go to the Connecticut Vital Records website for detailed information on the new law and how to fill out the new forms.
Since 2004 New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island have passed legislation allowing all its adult adoptees to obtain a non-certified copy of their OBC. In these states over 400 legislators, nearly 70% of all its legislators voted in favor of restoring the "human right" to its native born adult adoptees to obtain their OBC.
This is legislation that balances the rights of adoptees to receive their OBC while allowing birthparents to indicate their desire for contact by their birth son or daughter. This bill is about restoring the “human right” to adult adoptees to be treated just like everyone else in the state of Connecticut. I urge this committee to pass this legislation. It was the right thing to do in NH, Maine and Rhode Island. It’s the right thing to do here in Connecticut.
Nine states presently allow all adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates including Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Kansas, New Hampshire, Maine, Oregon and Rhode Island and Tennessee.
Opponents of this bill will claim that birthparents were promised confidentiality and that this bill would break that promise. In reality birth parents names could never be fully protected.
For example an adoptee can petition the court to get his or her identifying information.
Many adoptees have used the internet to search and have found their birth parents.
In Connecticut it is the adoptive parents who decide whether or not the adoptees original birth certificate is sealed in the first place.
Not one surrender document has ever been produced that indicated that birth parents were promised confidentiality.
6. Denying adult adopted person’s access to information related to their births and adoptions has potentially serious, negative consequences with regard to their physical and mental health. As recognized by the U.S. Surgeon General's office in its Family History Initiative, biological family medical history is vital to prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, particularly with regard to diseases and conditions for which individuals may be genetically predisposed, such as heart disease, cancer, and certain mental health conditions. (EBDI 11/07)
7. Opponents of this bill proclaim that lives would be ruined; their state’s Vital Records office negatively affected, fiscal notes required, abortions would increase while adoptions decrease. In the states that have passed almost identical legislation none of the grave concerns voiced by the opposition have come true.
As of 2007 Oregon and Alabama abortion rates have declined at least 10% compared to only a 2% decline in abortions nationally.
In Oregon after adoptee access, a six-year decline in adoptions stopped and abortion numbers leveled off.
8. The assumption that abortions will rise and adoptions will fall is absolutely false. In states that allow adoptees to access their birth certificates, the abortion rate is generally lower than the national average, while adoption rates are higher.
9. No reports of any lawsuits or violation of the “no contact request” from opponents and supporters of the legislation that passed in New Hampshire or Maine.
10. Since 2005 New Hampshire Vital Records has issued over 2000 original birth certificates to NH born adult adoptees. Only 12 of the thousands of birth parents eligible to file a contact preference form have requested not to be contacted.
11. Only 1 in every 2000 birth mothers has requested not to be contacted by their birth son or daughter. This clearly demonstrates that birth parents in overwhelming numbers do not object to adoptees contacting them after receiving their original birth certificates.
12. In New Hampshire, Maine or Rhode Island no fiscal note was required to implement their legislation. In New Hampshire the Vital Records Office has collected over $21,000 since it went into effect. New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island Vital Records Offices also modeled their websites, forms and procedures on lessons learned by Oregon which allowed them to implement this new policy almost seamlessly.
13. Legislation that became law in NH, Maine and Rhode Island were modeled after very successful legislation that has been in effect in Oregon and Alabama for 10 years. Legislators in each of these states were faced with the same difficult decision -- the rights of adoptees and birth parents. In the end the legislators in both states recognized that legislation in Oregon and Alabama did balance the rights of adoptees and birthparents.
14. Reunion Registries do not work and have a terrible success rate. Since 1978 when Maine created its reunion registry only 65 people have been reunited. In January 2005 the first week New Hampshire began to issuing original birth certificates 149 adoptees receive information about their birth family. More people received information in one week in New Hampshire about the birth families then in 33 years in Maine through the reunion Registry.
15. Adoptees have been searching for their birth families in Connecticut and across the country for decades. At this time there is no mechanism in place for birth parents to let their biological child know if they want to be contacted or not. With the contact preference option in SB 296 there will be a mechanism for birthparents to express their desire for contact with their adult adopted child where one does not exist today.
New laws were passed in the State 2015 session regarding restraints and seclusions, expulsions of young children, concussions and GAL in family courts. Some of these laws affect children who are adopted.
There is a pilot program in Middletown, Willimantic and Norwich where educational surrogates are going to be appointed to all children in DCF care and not just those with PPT. A bill has been passed to appoint educational surrogates to all youth at CJTS. The pilot program will help to determine if all children should have surrogates. A question was raised as to why more foster parents are not trained to be surrogates. It may be the training time and length of the child’s placement. Foster parents commented that they are rarely listened to regarding school issues. This change in surrogates may allow better preparation for children moving into adoption from foster care.
The CT budget implementer bill, #5597, passed the last day of the 2014 session and contained two sections related to adoption. One section has changes to adoption subsidy. This allows the subsidy to continue to age 21 under the following conditions: the child is 16 at the time of adoption and the adoption occurred after October 1, 2013. At the time the adoptee reaches 18, the parents must provide proof that the child is enrolled in a full-time post-secondary educational program. Another section set up the Baby CHET Scholar Fund for any child born or adopted after January 1, 2014. The parents must sign an agreement with the State Treasurer before the child’s first birthday for the State to establish the fund with a $100 donation. If the parents deposit $150 before the child’s fourth birthday, the State will donate another $150 to the fund.
Public Act 15-199(passed in the 2015 State Session)
What is new?
Allowing foster parents to approve “normal activities” for foster children without needing prior approval from DCF is new. This allows children to feel more “normal” and foster parents to feel like they are more than babysitters. There are some guidelines given. The liability statement may need some clarification.
Requiring that children 12 and older be involved in their own permanency planning is important. This act also requires the DCF report on the number of children who suggest adults who could be permanency resources.
Children under sixteen can no longer have a plan of APPLA. Those over sixteen without any other permanency plan may have OPPLA, but DCF will need to justify the plan.
There is a definition of “fictive kin caregiver” as well as the licensing process.
DCF must maximize federal reimbursements and urge guardianship to reduce the number of children in care.
The new time limits to notify relatives, particularly grandparents, when a relative child comes into care are important. Grandparents should be notified in 15 days or no later than 30 days with other relatives notified within 30 days.
DCF must request an annual credit report for all children in care fourteen or older; it must be reviewed by DCF and the child’s attorney to make corrections where necessary.
DCF must report any missing or abducted children to the FBI National Crime Information Center and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children within 24 hours.
DCF must share information with other agencies and individuals working on children’s cases.
10. Sibling visitation is further defined and must be reported yearly.
This law will affect some of the permanency decisions made for children in care.
The 2016 session is a short session beginning 2/3/16-5/4/16. As a short session, bills are introduced by committee.
HR 4980 Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act is a bipartisan bill passed in Congress in 2014. The bill addresses several important issues in child welfare.
The adoption incentives program for states would be reauthorized, although the
Formula has changed to offer more encouragement to place older children in adoption and guardianship. It funds the third year of the Family Connections Grant
New oversight for youth in foster care and helps prevent sexual exploitation of youth in foster care.
This bill is fully paid for and is actually scored by the Congressional Budget Office as reducing the deficit over ten years.
Federal expansion of the IV-E Adoption Assistance eligibility requires states to track and reinvest savings; requires a portion of savings to be spent on post-adoption and post-guardianship services
Requires states to track data on disrupted and dissolved adoptions and guardianships.
Eliminate the use of APPLA as a permanency goal for youth under age 16.
Protect youth at-risk for sex trafficking and determine appropriate services for them.
Allow youth in care to more easily participate in activities.
Empower youth in foster care to be involved in their own permanency planning
Establish a national advisory committee on sex trafficking of children and youth
This federal act was endorsed by the state legislature in 2015.
On the Federal level, there are two bills in Congress to make the Adoption Tax Credit refundable. In the Senate, the bill is S 950, and in the House the bill is HR 2434. The refundable tax credit makes an enormous difference in terms of which families can claim it, as it increases the ability for low- and moderate-income families to access the credit. Please call, email, or use twitter to contact your Senators and Representatives to ask them to protect the adoption credit and to make it refundable.
Senator Christopher Murphy of CT has submitted a bill regarding mental health care. The Mental Health Reform Act, S-1945 will restructure, integrate, and expand access to mental health services throughout the country. He has worked on a bipartisan basis with a Republican sponsor in the House, Bill Cassidy, to present this bill. Prior to sponsoring the bill, Senator Murphy held roundtable discussions throughout the state to hear from mental health advocates and consumers about the needs and barriers to treatment. This appears to be a sensible approach to reform Mental Health.
Two older federal laws affecting adoption:
Federal Law: College Cost Reduction and Access Act (H.R.2669, PL 110-84)
This law became effective on October 1, 2007 unless otherwise stated in the law. Two parts of this law do not become effective until July 1, 2009 (2009 – 2010 school year).
Two parts that will be effective July 1, 2009 (2009 – 2010 school year):
Youth who are adopted after their 13th birthday will not need to include their adoptive parents’ income, asset, or other information for purposes of determining the need for federal student financial aid. This allows those adopted on or after their 13th birthday to be considered as an “independent student”. Children adopted prior to 2007 on or after their 13th birthday will also be able to apply as an “independent student”.
Allows youth that are in legal guardianship as determined by court of competent jurisdiction in the applicant’s state of legal residence to qualify under the “independent student” definition.
For more information about this law, you may go to http://voice-for-adoption.org/assembled/advocacy_updates.html or http://www.nasfaa.org/publications/2007/lndependency110807.html.
Summary of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act –
HR 6893-Passed 2008
Title IV-E funds can be used for kinship guardianship under certain circumstances.
Grants available to state, local, or tribal agencies.
Requires states to exercise due diligence to notify all adult relatives within 30 days of removal.
Clarifies non-safety licensing requirement waivers for relative licenses
Continues Federal support for children in care to age 21 under certain guidelines.
Requires that a transition plan be in place 90 days before a child exits foster care system (at majority age).
Requires that reasonable efforts be made to place siblings together or provide visitation if placed separately unless safety factors prohibit.
Enhances state adoption incentives.